Reports a few weeks ago said former President Jerry Rawlings had nudged up the Roman Catholic Establishment to speak out on issues with boldness as it did before through Pastoral Letters and the Catholic Standard, its authoritative mouthpiece. Contents of those letters thoroughly diagnosed, addressed and prescribed alternatives, often suggestively; but rarely covered up in as the Church saw it. Both carried weight and influence with government and country.
By the way, the Catholic Standard was published then in that era by the CMP [Catholic Mission Press] at Cape Coast. Moving it to Accra represents the next epoch. Unlike the first, the next from edges of the 50s into the 60s to date, has not been tweedle–dee and tweedle-die-dum. Political bias set in and drew up a combative ideological differences. It would be said to be natural, given all the country-vagaries since—politico-socio-economic and the major freedoms except ‘of worship’—a laissez-faire which now overwhelms the country; and it also debatable to assert the stance-changes that occurred in between the years would represent the total or indeed approximate collective position of the Church—Priestly and the Laity relative to the issue under discussion.
In any case for distinct example worthy to cite, the Roman Catholic opinion—supportive or opposing, aggregated the pulse of the country. Its power derived there. The talisman was its genuine neutrality. Two political storms gnawed away the public and governmental trust leading to a falling out of favour and being added to country political opposition to the ruling CPP respectively. These were the Rev.Fr Damoah detention and Accra’s being the capital led Bishop Joseph Bowers co-signing the Orthodox Church in Ghana’s dialectic on the “Young Pioneer Movement, School Kids socialist ideologue wing of the CPP.
The Church in retrospect lost more of its amour proper than the rest in the aftermath right through to the close of the 90s where two national before the Roman Catholic Church had visibly shifted to the Right of politics here reading consecutive Pastoral Letters of the Bishops, both on the eves of crucial national ballots [1992 and 1996] urging Catholics to vote for, in consonance with the dominant theme that God shall give the country a “God-fearing Leader”. [Rawlings was the Leader contesting. He had been accused of committing sacrilege in remarks allegedly that he was not afraid of God or does not fear God’.
He explained though that as a son he needn’t be scared of his father. That is God.] After that election won by Rawlings it was the Catholic Standard Editorially and Column that wrote unparalleled diatribes against Rawlings and the NDC government. It was taken as voice of the Church and that explains it. However, prior to this period post-Damoah  the Church via the Catholic Standard did a summersault full praise of Nkrumah, having denigrated him previously:
“In that awful moment of the attack [Police Constable Ametewee’s at Flagstaff House]…Osagyefo did not forget his Christian principle. He did not want to repay evil with evil. He spared the enemy the shame of being shot. Osagyefo nkwaso” [“life to Osagyefo”; Standard 1964] This certainly expressed more than the normal Catholic abhorrence of murder and attempted murder. It was ironic that the Church could lend public support to the referendum…that would transform Ghana into an authoritarian one-party state in which all right to criticize the government was banned. This was also a sign of the times.”.
.It appears that the Ghana Church’s newfound friendliness with the Nkrumah regime was endorsed and perhaps actively encouraged by the Vatican [Journal of Religion & Society; the Kripke Center Vol. 16 (2014).
The cessation of Roman Catholic hierarchical hostility to the Left in our governance history and by which time trust of it and its importance had been lost in national affairs seems to start receiving restoration from about the third end of the first twenty years of this century despite the occasional pollutant from a Priest or Prelate corresponding with the “Ins” and “Outs” of the Left in office. But generally, the Standard abstained from preceding diatribes editorially and virulent columnists in indecorous language. Certain spasms of the same resurged during the plateau with discernible nervousness.
In hindsight despite the brevity of time lapsed it is hard to characterise them as either testing the political order barricades or an effort not to flack them but simply get back to roots since Foundation 1933 [the Catholic Standard] to convey a renaissance of the Church’s advocacy for democracy and social justice in the country. The reason those flashes did not cause stirs as on earlier eras that the public had by then gone off or were weary of the sources rumoured as fighting personal anger and had used the platform for popularity, a phenomenon that easily occurs instantly in this country since back years to make those “heroes” as they got at governments and authority in solo sorties.
As far as the new phase prior to this was concerned the frowning responses this time stood noted and the hitherto political hit back or two were kept down under as if loudly saying “we know them.” Therefore, by age 80 as recently the Catholic Standard, the Church appear in tandem to co-grope for a rapprochement. This is a safe interpretation of goings-on—the new Archbishop of Accra John B. Kwofie’s visit-chat and similarly with the other John IV [Mahama] are key damage repair part of the exercise in renaissance, which incidentally the Archdiocese of Accra particularly urgently requires today.
It would have been schism-preaching with perhaps a real or threat ex-communication some few decades back if anyone had described a small but very deep in meaning the nudging up the Roman Catholic Church of Ghana to let its boldness be heard and felt to affect constructive development in the affairs of state today. This is “SANKOFA”—striving to retrieve influence and heft. It is instructive also to state, as if rationalising the effort for a detente that Roman Catholics would form the quorum at any meeting of former Presidents of this country presently. Why must the church have to be audacious as years before?
The simplest answer is that it spoke out and was powerful, commanding unquestionable credibility and honest respect cross-country. This was because it was seen to be reasonably neutral and dealt with substance, proposing reality alternatives which were implicitly correct and impressively appealing—obviously the better. Government of the day did not openly demur and the authority either quietly backed down or negotiated itself out of its own-created quagmire-propaganda against dissent about their original proposition. Not every one of us remembers the ancient dictum says “the nation looks up to the church to save it.” Reference to Church equates with religion which then was only orthodox—Roman Catholic and the protestant bunch. But in all that Roman Catholicism has been at helm and forefront.
I confess it as a claim that is bound to trigger arguments. The reality is its verity. I don’t emphasise for calm and or compromise. However, that is our history. Again, and pretty overlooked in the saying is that the nation or indeed any nation’s best safeguard outside of its native bedrock and mores is the Church. That understanding is the zip in governance, especially in and for a developing African country.
To make how remarkable the apparent curving back of the art of history with reference to the significance of the courtesy calls and unpick its inner meaning, which is implicit new search for d’accord between the State and the Church here, my reach out for a finite point I choose to point to what the Standard’s reporting of the meets dwelling on Mahama’s reportedly assuring a hope that “he could work with the Church…”
It is that Rawlings has challenged the Catholic Church to re-examine its errors of the past. It is a sign of the times. I find it a coincidental intriguing where another Columnist of the Catholic Standard has in the issue reporting the meetings with the two former Presidents headed his article: “The Catholic Salt Has Gone Flat.”
(c) Prof. Nana essilfie-conduah.
******** until Rev.Fr. Damoah’s tangle with the State [Nkrumah’s government] and later his rift with the church whereby subsequently the Catholic Church was identified with the Opposition in this country blossomed in terms of Young Pioneers in concert with Anglican Bishop of Accra Richard Roseveare’s denunciation globally believed—especially in the West relative to the “Communist” tar on Nkrumah. [The Young Pioneers bore outward semblances with the Chinese “Red Guards” in the reign of Mao Tse Tung. Chairman Mao was a friend of Nkrumah through foreign Secretary Chou en Lai, his ally together with Andrei Gromyko, Soviet counterpart. Chou reportedly confirmed the overthrow [Feb. 1966] to Nkrumah in Peking as called then to finally convince Nkrumah to truncate his flight to North Vietnam to broker peace after the Commonwealth Deputation couldn’t undertake a peace mission agreed at a London Summit June 1965.]